Aug. 17, 2012 at 12:40 PM ET
About three years ago, the folks at tech blog Ars Technica called attention to the fact that Facebook keeps your deleted photos on its servers long after you believe them to be gone. Now, this rather unnerving issue appears to be a concern of the past. The social network is reportedly beginning to remove photos after you delete them.
Ars Technica's Jacqui Cheng writes that a Facebook spokesperson explained that the social network has been "been working hard to move [its] photo storage to newer systems which do ensure photos are fully deleted."
If you don't understand why this is pretty darn important, let's go back to Ars Technica's original investigation, which happened in 2009. The blog's staff checked on Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, and Twitter's data retention habits by deleting photos and then trying to view each image via its original direct link:
Though it took mere seconds for Twitter and Flickr to remove the photos from their content delivery networks (CDNs) after deletion from the site, MySpace and Facebook weren't so quick. MySpace got around to deleting the photos from its CDN several months later, but Facebook ended up being the embarrassing holdout.
This means that anyone who happened to have the direct link to an image —which can be found by right-clicking on an image and opening it in a new window — could continue viewing photos you deleted. (The image would have disappeared from your albums and regular Facebook pages instantly, of course.)
Right now, according to Cheng's tests, it takes Facebook about two days to completely remove an image from its servers, rendering even direct links useless. A Facebook spokesperson told Ars Technica that this is a result of recent changes. "As a result of work on our policies and infrastructure, we have instituted a 'max-age' of 30 days for our CDN links," he said. "However, in some cases the content will expire on the CDN much more quickly, based on a number of factors." Facebook representative Fred Wollens provided NBC News with a similar explanation.
Thirty days are still a ridiculously long amount of time for embarrassing or otherwise undesirable photos continue being accessible on Facebook after deletion, but better that they disappear late than never.
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